Clinton prepares to seize back the initiative

BILL CLINTON tomorrow delivers his second State of the Union message, aimed at regaining the initiative on important legislative proposals on crime, welfare and, above all, health care reform. But this annual great set piece of US politics will have a second purpose - to project this gifted but accident- prone President as a leader upon whom Americans can rely.

Mr Clinton is more than a year into his term, but views of him oscillate as wildly as ever. One moment he dazzles by his youth, drive and grasp of issues. The next he seems a shifty amateur, unable to run a government and whose personal integrity is daily called into question. Here at least, the second impression is in the ascendant. That Mr Clinton will be seeking to change with his address to both Houses of Congress.

Its prime focus, aides say, will be on health care, where a host of competing proposals, Republican and Democratic alike, make it steadily less likely that the original White House proposals, comprising universal coverage and greater government controls, will make it to the statute book before Congress breaks up for elections in the autumn.

Complicating matters are demands from his own party to give higher priority to welfare reform. 'I do not think there is a health-care crisis,' claimed Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, whose support is essential if the White House is to have its way on health care.

A fortnight before Christmas, flushed with success over Nafta (the North American Free Trade Agreement) and basking in praise for what seemed a deft replacement of the Defense Secretary, Les Aspin, Mr Clinton would have had his way. But Arkansas has returned to haunt him, while his Pentagon nominee, Bobby Ray Inman, has self-destructed.

Thus far, the renewed doubts do not extend far beyond the febrile Washington opinion factory. Mr Clinton's national approval rating is comfortably over 50 per cent - as good as most of his predecessors at a similar point - despite the Inman embarrassment adding to the continuing fuss over his business dealings and alleged philanderings when he was governor of Arkansas.

This weekend brought fresh stirrings on the latter front, as a former Miss Arkansas claimed she had been heavily pressured during the 1992 campaign to hold her tongue over an affair with then-Governor Clinton nine years before. Senior Republicans meanwhile are still pressing for a Select Committee to investigate Whitewater, despite last week's appointment of a special counsel. A congressional inquiry would generate little extra light, but much more heat, for Mr Clinton.

The explanation for the relative confidence of ordinary Americans is the economy. Every statistic points, almost miraculously, to solid growth and little inflation. Mr Clinton used his weekly radio address on Saturday to announce a likely 1995 budget deficit of less than dollars 180bn ( pounds 120bn), compared to the dollars 300bn anticipated before the deficit-cutting package approved by Congress last summer. That figure is another sign interest rates will not rise, and imperil the recovery.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas